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David Sullivan denies West Ham “sale” rumors

Story in the Express stated that the board was looking for investors

Fulham v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

The Express ran a story late Monday night saying that West Ham United majority owners David Sullivan and David Gold were looking to sell a share of the team, while still retaining majority control and their position on the board. The story stated that the board was looking for additional investors to help “take the team forward” with an injection of cash that would, presumably, be used to bolster the first team and add to the war chest for the summer transfer window.

David Sullivan came out today and said the rumors of a “sale” of the club were “utterly false” and that he and Gold had no intention of selling the team. He told the club’s official website, WHUFC.com that “[i]t is no secret that both David Gold and I see our long term futures as custodians of West Ham United”. He continued, saying that they “plan to be here for many, many, years, bringing further progress to the Club on and off the pitch, and success to our loyal supporters.”

On the face of it, the rumor doesn't make a lot of sense. And not for the reason that is given by Sullivan. In fact, while Sullivan rubbishes the idea that they are looking to sell the club, he doesn’t go out and state that the club was not looking for additional investors, just that he and Gold “plan to be here for many, many years.” But the part that doesn’t make sense is not why the owners would want to add an additional owner to the group, but why anyone else would invest tens of millions of pounds into to West Ham without control over the club?

Selling the team may not be in the cards anytime soon, and with the team’s recent struggles on the pitch, as the Express noted, the owners would not be able to command a large sum of money for the club anyway. But bringing in an additional investor, with cash in return for equity in the club, would not be selling the club. But why would anyone want to be an “additional investor?” If someone wanted to invest £70 million in a football club, they could just buy a Championship club or even be a majority owner in a takeover for a Premier League club, not buy into West Ham in return for a minority share of equity that they would only be able to realize gains from that equity share when the team is sold or when someone else, or the majority owners, buy them out. It is extremely rare for this type of arrangement to be made, and even more rare when the owners are not seeking to sell the team anytime soon.

Put it this way, would petro-dollar rich Middle Easterners or Chinese investors sitting on piles of cash do this deal? Of course not. Would an American hedge fund manager do this deal? Nope. The only way this deal works is if someone buys equity with the end result being outright ownership or if Sullivan finds a sucker wealth fan with more money than sense. Either way, nothing about this deal makes sense at all, and Sullivan doesn’t even deny that part of the rumor anyway.